Scheduled Monument

West Town, ring cairn 240m SW ofSM11551

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
01/03/2007
Type
Prehistoric ritual and funerary: ring cairn
Local Authority
Highland
Parish
Dores
NGR
NH 62177 32591
Coordinates
262177, 832591

Description

The monument is a Clava-type ring cairn, a prehistoric burial site dating to the Early Bronze Age. It lies on a knoll at 230m above sea level, surrounded by improved pasture sloping gently down to Loch Duntelchaig.

The cairn measures approximately 29m by 24m and up to 1.5m in height. A quantity of stone cleared from the field has been added to the top of the cairn. Excavation in 1964 showed that the central court measured about 8.5m in diameter within a ring-bank 2.7m thick. In 1992, it was possible to see four stones of the revetment of the court still in an upright position, and another prostrate. It is now difficult to see these four upright stones. One large upright slab is visible in the interior and other large boulders lie around and on the edge of the mound. At least one other prostrate slab is visible.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, centred on the cairn, to include the visible remains and an area around in which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: Despite a degree of disturbance and erosion and the addition of some field clearance stones, the monument retains important field characteristics that clearly identify it as belonging to the group of monuments known as Clava cairns, a rare and geographically limited class of monument. From the excavation of related monuments we now understand that the remains associated with ring cairns can include stone platforms enclosed by a circle or 'kerb' of stones, larger surrounding stone circles and rubble banks or 'rays' joining them as well as other features, and that they have a complex history of development. So, despite partial excavations in 1964 the monument still has the potential to include well-preserved remains that can help us to better understand Early Bronze-Age funerary and ritual practices. It is also likely to seal information about the prehistoric environment that existed at the time of its construction and use.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a small, regionally defined group of 50 or so prehistoric monuments, known as Clava cairns, which are only found in the Inverness and Moray Firth area, particularly along river valleys and low ground south of the Firth. Examples generally include components of stone circles, ring cairns and passage graves. The monuments tend to have a dominant position in relation to the immediate location only.

This example is located within a wider landscape of prehistoric settlement and field systems close to Loch Duntelchaig. It can be compared and contrasted to nearby prehistoric funerary monuments, and others outside the region, to create an understanding of regional identity and society. The close association with water is typical of Clava cairns. The number of Clava cairn cemeteries within Strathnairn indicates that the valley had special importance to the Bronze Age population. These cairns share a common orientation to the S and SW, which may relate to movements of the sun and moon across the southern sky.

Associative characteristics: It is the view of most prehistorians that there was an intimate relationship between the religious beliefs expressed by monuments such as this, the surrounding landscape and the movements of the main astronomical bodies. This astronomical link continues to generate considerable interest today.

National Importance: This monument is of national importance because it represents a rare and regionally distinctive class of Early Bronze Age monument that can help us to understand burial and ritual practices in NE Scotland and their relationship to what is happening elsewhere in the British Isles. The loss of the monument would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

References

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NH63SW 47; Highland Council SMR as NH63SW0047.

Photographs:

RCAHMS, C26385CN, West Town Cairn.

Highland Council, View of Cairn Looking Downslope, A. King.

References:

Bradley R 2000, THE GOOD STONES: A NEW INVESTIGATION OF THE CLAVA CAIRNS, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland monograph series No. 17, Edinburgh.

Henshall A S 1963, THE CHAMBERED TOMBS OF SCOTLAND, 1, Edinburgh, 380-1, INV 50.

Woodham A A 1958, 'West Town, Loch Dun Seilcheig', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1958, 24.

Woodham A A 1964, 'West Town, Loch Dun Seilcheig', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1964, 31-2.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.

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Printed: 24/06/2019 12:46